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Of Special Interest ...examining a significantly timely topic

May 05 2022

Research Preview: Emerging Market Bonds

  • May 5, 2022

The U.S. Aggregate Bond Index lost 3.8% in April, bringing its year-to-date return to an agonizing -9.5%. The realization that bonds can lose big money, combined with the outlook for stubbornly high inflation and continued rate increases, is nudging bond investors to consider a wider scope of alternatives.

Apr 06 2022

A Tale Of Two CDs

  • Apr 6, 2022

Investors considering a position in the Consumer Discretionary sector need to be aware of what they are buying: a basket in which one-half consists of mature, modestly-valued consumer brands, while the other half is two mega caps with excellent growth profiles and high absolute valuations. It would be a mistake to view this sector as a homogeneous set of companies.

Mar 21 2022

ETFs Evolving: Make Mine Mint Chip

  • Mar 21, 2022

The ETF concept began as a vehicle to provide low-cost access to a broad market index, and the terms “passive”, “cheap”, “index”, and “ETF” were often used synonymously. However, ETFs soon evolved into specialty funds that allowed investors to take focused active tilts in sectors, styles, and countries; a landmark shift away from the notion of passively investing in the total market.  These specialty funds are easy to trade and tax efficient, but they do not fall under the labels of cheap, passive, or broad market.

Mar 17 2022

Special Study: Should You Buy The Dip? Some Statistical Considerations…

  • Mar 17, 2022

The correction in the S&P 500 since its high on January 3rd qualifies as a “severe” correction, which we define as a decline of at least -12% based on daily closing prices. What are the odds that it becomes a “major” decline*—in which the loss exceeds -19%?

In Section I, we review the history of severe corrections since 1950. In Section II, those corrections are analyzed in the context of the economic cycle, consumer sentiment, and other underlying factors—ones that might help us determine if today’s stock-market weakness is “buyable.” 

Mar 05 2022

Research Preview: The Evolving ETF Landscape

  • Mar 5, 2022

Exchange Traded Funds came to life in early 1993 with the launch of SPY, a passive fund tracking the S&P 500. Subsequent ETFs followed in the S&P MidCap 400 (MDY), the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DIA), and the NASDAQ 100 (QQQ). Still, six years after SPY’s debut there were only four domestic equity ETFs outstanding at the end of 1999.

Feb 22 2022

The Mysterious Affair of Style Returns

  • Feb 22, 2022

Mystery writers are fond of creating misdirection by introducing multiple eyewitnesses that each describe the crime differently. This plot device confuses the storyline until a clever detective comes forward to unravel the conflicting evidence and solve the mystery. 

This scenario played out in style returns for 2021, as shown in Table. Our first witness is a large cap manager who tracks the S&P 500 and reports another banner year for Growth, its seventh win in the last ten years. Our second observer is a small cap manager who watches the broader market and tells of Value’s excellent year. Meanwhile, our third bystander is an international manager tracking EAFE, who reports seeing a whole lotta’ nothing in the style derby last year. In this study, we channel our inner Hercule Poirot to determine what, in fact, did happen across domestic style returns in 2021.

Feb 04 2022

Research Preview: A Playground Scuffle Between Value And Growth

  • Feb 4, 2022

It is a scene easy to imagine: Two children on the playground arguing about who’s the top dog. This schoolyard scuffle played out in 2021 between the Value and Growth styles, with each claiming bragging rights from their own perspective.

Jan 19 2022

Speculating In “The Nebs”

  • Jan 19, 2022

One measure of a bubbly bull market is the degree of speculative fervor embedded in the prices of companies with nebulous, indeterminate, or even nonexistent intrinsic values. Since the bear market low in March 2020, speculative manias have evolved in a menagerie of asset classes including Innovators & Disruptors, SPACs, meme stocks, crypto currencies, and NFTs. Based on the breadth of valuation extremes across numerous and diverse assets, this bull market may rank second to none.

Jan 06 2022

Research Preview: Style Swings In 2021

  • Jan 6, 2022

Despite elevated uncertainty over pandemic developments and expected policy tightening, and in the face of aggressive valuations, the S&P 500 still managed to gain a delightful +28.7% in 2021. Even more noteworthy, in our opinion, is that this advance came with nary a single correction of more than 10%.

Dec 16 2021

Discretionary Durables: A Bubble In Fun

  • Dec 16, 2021

Extremely loose monetary and fiscal policies during the pandemic have created distortions and disequilibria throughout the economy. The most visible bubbles may be in financial markets, evidenced by the boundless valuations applied to visionary startups and the speculative fascination for digital assets of all types. This report examines a bubble of a different kind; not a financial bubble but rather a real-world bubble in “fun”. Producers of recreational goods are flourishing during the pandemic, posting massive sales gains and a tripling of net income, yet selling for miniscule valuations.

Dec 06 2021

Research Preview: Discretionary Durables

  • Dec 6, 2021

While retail spending has boosted staples and durables alike, we believe that discretionary durables have been the prime beneficiary of changing lifestyles and spending patterns, with skyrocketing sales and inventory outages that may not reach equilibrium even in 2022. 

Nov 04 2021

Tis The Season For Factor Tilting

  • Nov 4, 2021

Factor investing has gained wide popularity in recent years, enabled by a proliferation of smart-beta ETFs coming to market, which opened new opportunities for tactical investors. In 2018, we launched our Factor Tilt ETF strategy, and here we discuss how we’re now enhancing it by adding Seasonal Cyclicality to our analytical toolbox for evaluating factor conditions.

Oct 20 2021

Emerging Markets EPS: There's Many A Slip...

  • Oct 20, 2021

If there is one thing sure to make equity investors swoon, it is the prospect of buying into a credible, long-lived secular growth story at a relatively modest valuation. Over the past three decades, Emerging Markets (EM) have proffered just such an opportunity. EM’s economic growth rates have far surpassed those of developed nations, and the valuations attached to EM stocks have often been at a discount to other markets.

However, this combination of secular growth and attractive valuations has not always paid off for investors. The MSCI Index has underperformed the U.S., Europe, and even Japan over the last ten years in local currencies. Furthermore, EPS growth for the EM Index has come in far below its economic growth rate, creating an exasperating drag on Index performance as it tries to keep up with other regions.

Oct 06 2021

Research Preview: Emerging Markets’ Leaky Bucket

  • Oct 6, 2021

Investors view Emerging Markets (EM) as the best source of economic growth across global equity markets, and rightly so. Annualized EM GDP growth of 8.6% since 2001 is more than double that of the U.S. and Europe. However, investors have not captured this extraordinary advance because earnings per share for the MSCI EM Index have lagged far behind EM economic growth rates.

Sep 22 2021

Q'Val: A Factor Powerhouse

  • Sep 22, 2021

Quant researchers widely agree that Value offers a return premium over time (although not recently) and that High Quality also offers excess returns. The Quality angle seems contrary to intuition, in that investors generally prefer Quality companies and are willing to pay up for them, yet Quality regularly outperforms. Value and Quality are both well-respected investment factors, and we were curious to explore the interaction of these two smart beta stalwarts. Is Value enhanced by adding a layer of Quality, thereby avoiding value traps, or are Value investors better off buying junky, unattractive companies that have the most room to rebound from depressed prices?

 

Aug 23 2021

Can Mo Outrun A Bear?

  • Aug 23, 2021

Hiker #1: Can you run faster than that hungry bear looking at us?

Hiker #2: I don’t need to run faster than the bear, I just need to run faster than you.

The Momentum style of investing has a long history of generating excess returns, and ranks near the top of the list of essential smart beta factors. However, Momentum also has a dark side; it is prone to severe drawdowns whenever the market makes a significant reversal.

Jul 21 2021

Tactical Junk

  • Jul 21, 2021

High yield bonds returned a robust 15.4% in the year ending June 30, extending a winning streak that produced a 56.4% cumulative return since the end of 2015.  After a quick, severe drawdown at the height of the COVID-19 scare, junk bonds have experienced nearly ideal market conditions, heralding a return to trends that have been in place for several years. The post-pandemic move toward this record low has been a boon to high yield bond investors, but it has also created a significant risk of reversal.  We believe most things in the financial markets are defined by cycles, with Treasury yields and credit spreads no exception.  Tight readings for both rate series demand that we consider the possibility that a cyclical reversal could weigh on junk bond prices going forward.

Jul 07 2021

Research Preview: High Yield’s Heyday

  • Jul 7, 2021

High yield corporate bonds returned over +15% for the twelve months ended June 30th, building on a strong five-year run that was interrupted by a short, but painful, drop at the onset of COVID-19. Chart 1 indicates that high yield bonds compound at a remarkably steady rate, with infrequent but severe drawdowns during times of financial stress.

Jun 16 2021

Schrödinger’s Style Box

  • Jun 16, 2021

The performance derby between actively managed portfolios and passive benchmarks is strongly influenced by market conditions.  Active manager success rates are cyclical, but not random, and are driven by slippage created from style, size, and weighting considerations that result from the imperfect slotting of active portfolios into single style boxes.  Moreover, this slippage can be defined and measured, and shows a clear correlation with relative return spreads between benchmarks and their opposite boxes.

Jun 04 2021

Research Preview: Is “Manager Skill” Cyclical?

  • Jun 4, 2021

The active-passive performance derby is cyclical, determined not by the ebb and flow of portfolio managers’ brilliance but, rather, by market conditions and the slippage that arises from imperfectly comparing funds and benchmarks.